Disclaimer: See Part 1
Preface: clomle44 wrote the first part of this chapter except for the tag on the end. I LOVES HER.
Abbie lay back in her seat, hands on Serena's hips, and tried not to cry out in frustration. She had no idea how they'd ended up here, but here they were, and it was excruciatingly tempting. One goodnight kiss had turned into two, which had turned into four, until the blonde was straddling her lap, their mouths fused together.
She nearly couldn't handle it. She had promised herself they would go slow. This, though, was heading fast in the other direction. The brunette's hands found soft skin, scraping between Serena's jean skirt and linen blouse. She felt goosebumps under her fingertips, glad she wasn't the only one aroused beyond belief.
"Abbie," the blonde gasped, her head tipping back, leaving a perfect column of throat for the brunette to tip forward and kiss. She stroked with her tongue, holding back from biting down, marking, and claiming. Too much further and she was going to take the blonde right here, right now, in the car park below the other lawyer's building.
"Serena..." she panted back, breath hot against the silky, soft skin of the blonde's neck. "Oh ... damn..."
She shifted, trying to get some purchase on the situation, find something to hold on to that wasn't pure sex. What she'd done though, was cause her knee to thrust up between exquisite legs, jean skirt riding up, making the blonde buck, a strangled cry coming from Serena. It had been so long since Abbie had heard that voice, that throaty sound of arousal, that she couldn't help echo it. She wanted to wait, she didn't want to fuck the blonde in a car. As Alex might say: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
But Serena was pushing her hips, wet cotton underwear sliding along Abbie's jeaned thigh, hips bucking, helped by Abbie's hands which were now firmly on the blonde's hips. It took moments, just white hot, breathy, unbelievably erotic moments, for Serena to use one hand to grab the brunette's shoulder, the other the back of the chair, and to come, shuddering into the brunette below her.
Simultaneously both lawyers let the epithet slide out, Serena's breathy and high pitched, Abbie's lower, more of a growl.
"Fuck," the brunette said again. This didn't count as sex right? She'd barely touched Serena. Surely she could just count this as a very hot make-out session and keep going with her promise of slow and perfect.
Until the blonde leaned forward, moaning, whispering in Abbie's ear: "I want you inside me."
The blonde was tense, clearly her orgasm having only pushed her further into need, further into want.
Oh god. How was she supposed to resist now?"
"Baby... no... we're ... I promised we'd wait."
She felt the blonde collapse against her, and shuddered a little, very aware of her own arousal. "What?" Serena asked, still dazed. "When?"
"Myself – I promised myself we'd... wait..."
Serena opened her mouth to protest. "But–"
"Believe me, having sex with you is always fantastic, but... I don't want to just have sex with you this time. I want–"
"– to make love?"
Abbie nodded shyly, burying her face in the crook of Serena's neck, her breath still coming hard and fast. "And so I think we should wait."
That was the moment that Serena believed, truly believed, that Abbie Carmichael might really love her. The Don Juan of the DA's office, the womanizer of Police Plaza, was actually turning down sex with her. For her. It was also the moment that Abbie realized she was going to have a very uncomfortable night. Alone.
The morning was difficult for Olivia and Abbie – but for different reasons. The detective was wrapped up in a case involving a woman who had been dumped in an oversized hospital laundry cart. The victim, Samantha, had been an environmental activist, but so far, they didn't have any leads. Meanwhile, Abbie was trying desperately to ignore the sexual energy that had suddenly returned to her body. She had always possessed a high libido, but Serena was a catalyst, making her desires much stronger.
"Well, you look about a s pleasant as the back end of a horse," Abbie said with false cheerfulness as Olivia practically collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table the next morning, her hair sticking up in various directions. Perhaps she was channeling Alex, because it was pulled into a messy sort of bun.
"Mrr. Coffee," said zombie-Olivia. Despite her unpredictable hours, she disliked waking up from deep sleeps. Not having Alex beside her to kiss her into consciousness only made the situation worse. After a sip of her coffee, she rasped out a rejoinder. "You look like a grenade waiting to explode."
Abbie sighed. "The date went well last night. Too well. I'm seeing Serena again today," she admitted.
"Struck out at home? They have sports besides football down in the South, right?"
"Football ain't a sport, it's a religion."
"Ain't isn't a word," Olivia corrected, thinking of Alex.
Abbie read her mind. "Stop channeling Cabot. Three-base hit, no home run, I decided to play it safe. I figure the best way to show her I'm serious is to not show her."
Olivia felt some pity for her friend, but decided she didn't deserve to receive sympathy. This would be good payback for her poor treatment of Serena in the past. "Alex and I had an ongoing sexual tension war for a decade, with a few pauses over the years. You can't handle a few measly months."
"You and Alex are better at controlling your emotions than I am."
That put a small, secretive smile on Olivia's face. Despite the cold, distant persona she displayed to the world, Olivia knew exactly how to tap in to Alex's emotional side and make her lose control completely...
"Stop thinking about sex, I'm tryin' to have a conversation here," Abbie said, sounding only slightly annoyed (mostly because Olivia was thinking about sex and she wouldn't be having any for a long time to come).
"Sorry," said Olivia, who was not sorry at all. After all, fantasies were all she had to go on these days. "So, what do you say we two sexually frustrated middle aged women spike our morning coffee and make it Irish?" she asked, standing up and heading over to Alex's cupboard to get some alcohol.
Abbie snorted disapprovingly. "Hmph. I'll have you know, Benson, that I'm not even close to middle-aged. I'm twenty nine."
"Sure you are, Carmichael. Just like last year. And the year before that. And the year before that."
Abbie stuck out her tongue.
"Nope, sorry, you can't have any of that," Olivia quipped. Abbie sighed. At least Olivia was handling Alex's absence a little better now that two weeks had gone by. She hoped that the improvements would continue until Cabot returned. Until recently, Abbie had never considered herself much of a romantic, but she had to admit that her two friends were perfect for each other, and the sooner they were reunited, the better for everyone.
Before Abbie could offer a response, a buzz echoed through the apartment. She looked at Olivia curiously. "You expectin' anyone, Benson?"
"Nah." Olivia stood up, threading fingers through her mussed hair in an attempt to straighten it. "Let me go check." Picking up the land line that connected her to the front desk, Olivia cradled it on her shoulder. "Hello?"
" Hello, Ms. Benson, " said the desk clerk, a live person instead of a recording. Having such tight security on the apartment building had made Olivia feel uncomfortable at first, but she was getting used to it. She talked her way past the desk clerks once or twice to see Alex at the beginning of their relationship, wanting to surprise her. "There is a woman down here to see you, a Ms. Casey Novak? She isn't sure if this is the right place–"
Olivia's eyes widened in surprise. She hadn't seen Casey or heard from her in years, not since her disbarment. The detective had respected her decision to leave New York and her old life behind, although it had hurt a little at the time. She and Casey had been well on their way to forming a friendship. Privately, Olivia wondered what she did to make all of her ADAs run away. She had no idea how Casey had figured out where she was living or why on earth she had decided to make contact after so long, but she had a feeling she was going to find out.
"No, I know her, she found the right place. Send her up and I'll let her in. Thank you."
"Who was that?" Abbie asked. The federal prosecutor had been watching the conversation with unconcealed interest.
"The front desk," Olivia said. "Do me a favor for once in your life, Carmichael, and go to the bedroom for a few minutes? Casey Novak, one of my former ADAs, just showed up out of nowhere after years of no contact, and I want to find out why."
"Don't want me as a distraction?"
"No offense, but you're kind of nosey, and you talk too much."
Abbie grinned, not bothering to deny the claims. "It's why ya love me. Promise to fill me in later?"
"If I feel I can," Olivia said. There was a brisk knock on the door, and Olivia headed to answer it while Abbie retreated down the hall towards the bedrooms.
"Casey." Even as Olivia said her name, she was struck by how different Casey Novak appeared from the slightly quirky but intelligent and well-put-together woman she remembered. She had lost weight and her familiar red hair was slightly longer, but the most noticeable change was the haunted, weary look behind her eyes. Olivia's heart recognized it immediately, and she wanted to reach out and give her former ADA a hug, but stopped herself. She wasn't sure if the hug would be welcomed. After all, Casey had left without a proper goodbye, much like Alex.
"Hey," she said, her voice monotone. "Thanks for buzzing me up."
Stepping aside, Olivia allowed Casey to enter Alex's apartment, surprised that the younger woman did not look around to inspect her new surroundings. She seemed lost, as though she was wandering through a fog. "There's no buzzer here," Olivia pointed out. Alex's place was too high-class. The front desk and the doorman guarded the premises like protective watchdogs. "How did you find me?"
She shrugged. "People talk. An old friend told me you were living with Alex Cabot."
"That's all they told you?" Olivia reached out to take Casey's coat, hanging it in the coat closet by the front door.
"Not all... you and Cabot, huh? From my first day on the job, I always knew I had big shoes to fill..."
With that tacit approval, Olivia felt her shoulders relax. "Park yourself on the couch," she said, putting a hand on Casey's shoulder and offering the other woman a warm smile. "This is my place, too, at least for the next six months, and what I say goes."
Casey seemed relieved, although the frightened, worn look did not disappear from her eyes. She sank gratefully onto Alex's couch, her purse sitting on her lap, and waited for Olivia to join her. The detective felt a little like George Huang as she sat down in between the second and third cushion, close enough to offer a hand or comforting touch, but far enough away to give Casey her space.
"Not that I'm unhappy to see you, but why are you here? Why now?"
The redhead sighed, brushing her long bangs away from her face. "Have you ever felt like things are just falling apart and you don't know where to go?"
Olivia shrugged. The Velez case. Losing Alex. Finding out that Alex was back, but hadn't contacted her. Finding out that she as engaged. Losing Alex again to her new job in the Congo... Basically, whenever Alex seemed out of reach, permanently or temporarily, her world tilted on its side and spun out of control. She did understand. "Yeah. So, that's why you're back? Trying to revisit the familiar?"
"I guess..." If this visit was just about Casey finding herself, she had a feeling that she wouldn't be much help. She also doubted that Novak would show up after so many years on a whim or fancy. Something had to be wrong.
"Listen, Case, I know we haven't seen each other in a long time, but you were more than just a colleague to me. While you were with us, I considered you my friend. If you need my help with something, all you have to do is ask."
For a moment, Casey seemed ashamed. "You have a feeling for these things, huh?" She took a deep breath. "Maybe it seemed cruel at the time, but when I was disbarred, I wanted a fresh start. A clean slate, you know? I thought it would be the healthiest thing for me..."
For the briefest moment, Casey smiled. "You wouldn't believe it, but leaving was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I floundered around for a few months, drinking too much tequila and wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life... until I reconnected with an old Law School buddy who struck it rich and wanted to dissolve his grandfather's business empire. With his help, I came up with an idea... I actually managed to start my own nonprofit for female service members and veterans, many of whom have been raped and discriminated against while serving our country. Guess everything you taught me at SVU came in handy."
Olivia returned the gentle smile. "Casey, that's great! It sounds like a really worthy cause. I knew you cared about the military while you were prosecuting our cases... and you had your father's awards displayed in your office..."
"With the softball plaque," Casey finished for her. "Yeah, I still have that, actually, and I still knock a pitch out of the park once in a while. I thought I was on my way to making a new life for myself. Then, they started coming..."
"What started coming?" Olivia asked, transitioning into 'detective mode' seamlessly. She had years of practice. She knew that this wasn't just a chat between friends. It was a police interview that happened to be taking place in Alex's apartment.
The former ADA sighed. "The letters. There were just a few at first. I thought they were addressed to the wrong person or something. There was no stamp or return address on the envelope. They said things like, "you looked pretty today" or "did you see me?"
Olivia nodded. "You think someone is watching you?"
"I don't want to believe that, but I know the signs. I lost my innocence working with you guys." She tried to force a smile, but it did not light up her face. She lowered her eyes and shook her head. "I know I was attacked once, but I guess the delusion stayed with me through the years... It took me a while to realize that lots of the rapists I prosecuted could have easily chosen me as their victim. Not all of the people we helped are poor druggies living in crime-ridden areas. Some came from the upper west side like me. But I guess my time away made me feel safe again. I forgot... I wasn't vigilant..."
"Casey, were you raped?"
The redhead's eyes widened. "No! No, god no."
"He didn't approach you at all?"
"No. For all I know it could be a woman or an ape in a dress, but if someone is stalking me, following me, sending me things... I figured that I should tell the best detective I know. That's you, Liv."
Olivia was far too concerned to be flattered. "Casey, you should report this to the police-"
"-You are the police," Casey interrupted.
"And I trust you. I know you'll handle this the right way. Besides, I worked the same cases you did a couple of years ago. Even if they find out who it is, what are they going to do, give me an order of protection? You know how effective those are."
"You think I can do better?"
"I know you can do better." Reaching into her large purse, Casey pulled out a thick brown envelope stuffed with papers. Olivia's eyes grew large at the size. "My DNA should be on the first couple, which I opened. After they started coming with some regularity, I stopped breaking the seal in case there was any kind of evidence. I even used those cheap plastic gloves so my prints wouldn't get on them."
"How long have you been getting these letters?"
"Three weeks, and it's not just the letters. Phone calls – I'm not listed publicly, so I have no idea how the bastard got my home number... Flowers, usually roses. Oh well, it could be worse. At least he's not leaving me dead animals."
"You kept the flowers?"
"They're at my place," Casey said, "although some of them are dying. I didn't want to throw out anything. On the bright side, my apartment smells like a perfume shop." Casey choked on the last word, drawing in a short, hissing breath through her teeth as she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to suppress a shudder and holding back tears. "Liv, please, find this guy. Look back through my old cases if you have to... I'll pay you overtime..." she offered, but the joke fell flat. "I just want to feel safe in my damn apartment again, you know?"
"Yeah," Olivia said, rubbing a comforting line down Casey's arm and giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Yeah, I know. I'll call Elliot and we'll go through everything you've got. Maybe I can bribe Huang to give me some kind of profile with steak or ribs."
Suddenly, the detective found herself with an armful of grateful ex-ADA, and for a moment, she let herself pretend that Alex was back... but Casey's perfume was different, and her body did not line up in all the right places. Still, getting a hug from an old friend was nice.
"So..." Casey finally said when she pulled away, "Cabot's got a nice, swanky place, huh? Did she turn you into an Uptown girl yet, Olivia?"
"No, but she has told me on numerous occasions that cabs stop faster for Uptown girls..."
A loud crash from the direction of the kitchen made both women jump. Olivia's hand shot to her waist, but she wasn't wearing her piece, and she seriously doubted that anyone had broken in to her apartment. "Carmichael!" she shouted as Casey clutched a hand to her chest, trying to catch her breath, "what the hell are you doing to my kitchen!"
"Makin' food!" Abbie yelled back.
"More food? We still haven't gotten through the leftovers from a few days ago," Olivia hollered back.
"Is that Abbie Carmichael?" Casey asked curiously. Olivia nodded. "I had the pleasure of meeting her once... she asked me to sleep with her after about five minutes of conversation."
Olivia snorted. "That's our Abbie. I assume you left a handprint on her face?"
Casey blushed. "Not quite. I didn't sleep with her, but I almost said yes... and I'm actually straight. Then I decided I must be crazy and told her I had a meeting – which was true."
"Congratulations. You can join the 'I Resisted Abbie Carmichael Club', then. Currently, you and Alex are the only members."
Olivia felt Casey's eyes burning her face. "... You?"
"Um, I'm a half-member? Never mind, it's a really long story..." She raised her voice and added, "Abbie! Are you going to feed us?"
"You bet your sweet ass I am! Come on in here and I'll put the feed on ya."
"Love's good for her," Olivia said, mostly to herself, but also to Casey. "It makes her cook more food."
Suddenly, Olivia's cell phone rang. With a big sigh, she picked it up and answered with a crisp, automatic “Benson”.
“It's me, Liv,” came Elliot's familiar voice. “I know you're off right now, but we've got a lead on Samantha. We have video of a car and license plate at the body's drop-site. Registered to a guy named Gambel. Why don't you meet me at his place so we can pay him a little visit and ask what a dead body was doing in his car?”
Olivia sighed, covering the mouthpiece of her phone. “Sorry, Case. I promise to take a look at all this stuff, but I have to go check something out with Elliot. Why don't you stay and eat something. Abbie can keep you company for an hour or two while I'm gone, right?”
“Sure,” said Abbie, giving Casey a wicked grin. “I'll make Ms. Novak feel right at home. We southerners are known for our hospitality.”
Casey looked a little wary, but that wasn't surprising. Abbie Carmichael's reputation preceded her, and interacting with her was a little intimidating even for the bravest of women. “Are you sure? I can come back later...”
“Don't worry, you'll be fine,” Olivia reassured her, “I promise. Abbie, be good.”
Abbie didn't help the situation by treating them both to an evil laugh. “Am I ever not good?” Olivia decided not to answer that question.
The first thing that Alex Cabot did when she stepped into her room was kick off her shoes and curse herself for being impractical. "Olivia would be chewing me out for wearing these," she said, staring down at her Dolce and Gabbana heels. The Pradas from the day before weren't any better. Thinking about Olivia made her sigh, but her heart lifted slightly when she realized that she had a free moment to call Olivia. The clock on her nightstand read 4:02 AM, but back in New York, Olivia would just be going to bed.
Not even bothering to take off her clothes and change, she flopped down onto the single bed, grateful that it at least had clean sheets, and touched the screen of her cell phone. 7 missed calls stared back at her. There were also several voicemails.
All from Olivia.
One by one, Alex Cabot went through the messages, partially because she wanted to hear Olivia's voice, and partially because the sheer amount of missed calls had her worried. "It's probably nothing," she said to herself as the robotic voice of her phone announced how many messages she had.
" Hi, Alex. It's me. Awful case today. Found an environmentalist tied up and dumped in the hospital laundry. Still looking for leads, but, hey, it made me worry, and – well, call me back. I guess the cases are different now that I, you know, have someone... bye."
The corners of Alex's lips twitched upwards in a smile. It was nice to know Olivia cared, even though she didn't want the detective to worry about her. At least not too much.
“Hey, it's Liv again. You'll never guess who showed up at my apartment today! Talk about a blast from the past... I'll explain when I talk to you later. Unfortunately, I had to leave her with Abbie because El and I got a lead on our case. Gotta go, we just pulled up to our suspect's house – love you.”
Alex adjusted her pillows and let the phone run her next message.
" Uh, sorry to bother you again – I guess you're out of range or whatever but... I thought you should hear it from me. Um, Elliot and I were shot at..."
All of the blood drained from Alex's face. She immediately hung up on her voicemail and hit Olivia's number on speed dial. The phone clicked as Olivia picked up, sounding surprisingly chipper. "Hey, Alex."
"Olivia! You are in so much trouble; I can't... are you all right? You're not hurt? Do I need to fly back home? Hold on, let me get my PDA so I can book a flight, I'll find Internet somewhere in this Godforsaken–"
"Woah, woah, woah... Alex, calm down! I'm fine, I promise. Not a scratch on me. Elliot busted the perp's head open, though."
"I knew I liked that man," Alex blurted out, unsure what else to say. So many thoughts and feelings were swirling around inside her that she could not begin to sort through them all. "Liv... God, I really want to hold you in my arms right now. You're sure you're okay? I'm going to call Abbie and Serena and Elliot to come stay with you and make sure you're okay..."
Olivia groaned. "No, Alex, I swear I'm fine, and Abbie's already staying with me. Er, you – us – whatever. At the apartment. Serena was over the other night for dinner, by the way. Abbie cooked –"
"Olivia," Alex growled, trying to keep her voice under control. Her heart was still thudding against her ribcage and her breathing was fast. "Olivia. Tell. Me. What. Happened."
Realizing that her attempts to distract Alex were not going to work, Olivia caved. "Well, this morning we caught a case: woman dumped in the hospital laundry and taken to the industrial plant. It was bad, Lex. Raped, tortured, throat slit..."
Alex suppressed a shudder. Olivia was a hardened sex crimes detective, and even she seemed particularly affected by the brutality of this case. She could hear it in the tone of her voice. "How did that lead to you getting shot?"
"Give me a minute," she sighed. "We got surveillance video of a Volvo dumping the body and tracked it to a dead guy named Gambel Sr. Turns out his son, Gambel Jr., is still alive and kicking, and he owns the car. When we went to question him, the bastard lied and said his brother had it, offered to go inside and get his address, and locked the door behind him."
If she had not been so upset and concerned, Alex would have let out a snort of laughter. In any other circumstances, seeing a perp trick Olivia in such a simple way might have been funny. Not this time.
"Then the little prick shot at us through the door. We were nowhere near the bullet spray, but I thought you'd want to know." Alex read between the lines and translated what her girlfriend was really saying: I didn't want you to kill me if you heard about it some other way.
Still brooding, she didn't realize that Olivia had not stopped talking until she heard the phrase, "-serial rapist. We found a whole box of trophies at his place – a ring, handkerchief, stuff from a bunch of different vics. No confession yet. He lawyered up, one of your old buddies. British accent. Annoying smirk. Sound familiar?"
"Pond." Alex groaned. "I am so incredibly glad that I don't have to deal with her anymore."
"Because she's a bitch?"
"No, because she's a good lawyer. Better than Trevor, anyway. Why she continues to defend the scum of the earth, I'll never know... – dammit, stop distracting me! So, you're sure that you're all right? No injuries at all?"
"None," Olivia said, trying to reassure the concern she heard so clearly in the attorney's voice. "I'm perfectly fine–"
"Were you wearing a vest?"
"Alex, we had no reason to believe that Gambel Jr. would be armed. We didn't even know that he existed. We just went to check Gambel Sr.'s last known address. For all we knew, we were going to end up staring at a 'For Sale' sign and talking to a landlord about the deceased."
Even though she knew it was irrational, Alex was still upset. "Maybe I should –"
"No, don't come home. You have a job to do, Alex. Everything is back to normal now, but Huang still needs to see me for my psych eval." Alex could picture Olivia wrinkling her nose and making a face reminiscent of a child staring down at unwanted vegetables. "Ugh."
"You like Huang. Olivia, I..." She closed her eyes, bringing her free hand up to her forehead to massage her throbbing temple. "You know I love you, right, baby?"
There was a pause on the other end. "I know, Alex. I love you, too." Despite her initial reluctance to say the words, Olivia said them as often as possible now. Alex knew that they were especially precious tonight. The news of Olivia's flirtation with danger had scraped both of their hearts raw.
"You sound exhausted." Now that she had stopped trying to sound happy and upbeat, she could hear the tiredness that laced her lover's voice. "You should go to sleep..."
"Can't. You're not here. Although Abbie and I had a distraction this morning."
"Not too good a distraction, I hope," Alex said, but the joke felt hollow and forced.
"Never, sweetie," said Olivia, and Alex was touched by her sincerity even though the sentiments were nothing new. "Something even weirder than getting shot at and catching a new case happened today. I had an interesting visitor."
"Oh?" Alex raised her eyebrows.
"Casey Novak. You remember her?"
"Of course. It's hard to forget such awful taste in footwear. I will admit that she did a good job questioning me, though."
"Hey, be nice to Casey," Olivia said, sounding slightly grumpy. "Apparently, someone's been making unwanted advances." She held herself back from saying 'stalker' because she did not want to worry Alex. In fact, Casey had seemed reluctant to bother her even while asking for help, eagerly letting Olivia leave in the middle of lunch and promising to tell the rest of her story later after she finished up at the scene of her latest case. So far, that later had not come.
"Unwanted advances?" Alex asked, knowing that Olivia was not telling her the entire story. "What kind of trouble have you been getting in to while I'm gone? An old friend shows up out of the blue, you find a corpse in a laundry cart, and you get shot at... What are you, a castmember in some soap opera?"
Olivia let out a long sigh. "Heh, I wish. No, my life is pretty much always this crazy." She paused. "I know you're probably tired, but could you..."
Alex read her mind. "Leave the phone on while both of us try to get some sleep?"
"Waste of money, minutes, and battery life, I know..." Olivia's voice trailed off sadly, but there was also a melancholy, pleading sort of hopefulness behind her words.
There was only one answer Alex could possibly give. "You know I will." She paused, then added, "just because I'm feeling generous, I won't ask you for phone sex after the day you had." Her second joke was much more successful, and Olivia chuckled lightly.
"Hmm. So you're not going to tell me what you're wearing?"
"Work clothes," Alex sighed. "The skirt and jacket with the two-tone gray pattern... Robin's egg blue blouse, though, not white."
"I'm wearing... flannel," Olivia admitted. "Sleeping naked in winter isn't nearly as much fun without you to help keep me warm."
Alex put the phone on speaker and stood up, stripping off her jacket before working on the buttons of her blouse and shimmying out of her skirt. "You'll be pleased to know that I'm taking off my clothes. I'm not even going to fold them."
"I don't believe it. Take a picture with your cell phone as proof. I bet you wake up at two in the morning to fix it because you're anal retentive."
"I am not." Alex scowled, but left the suit in a crumpled heap and stripped off her hose. "Okay, maybe a little. Right now, I'm too tired to care." Wearing only her underwear, she glanced over at her still unpacked suitcase and debated standing up again to find some pajamas. Eventually, she decided against it. The temperature was warm enough to go without. The snow and bitter wind of New York's winter were two things that she would not miss.
Curling up underneath the covers, she put the phone next to her ear, listening to the sound of Olivia's breathing. "Ready for bed?"
There was a half-yawn on the other end of the line. "Mmm. Yep. Alex, thanks... for not freaking out and everything."
"Oh, I freaked out. You just had the phone as a buffer." Secretly, Alex felt guilty that she was stuck half way around the world while Olivia had faced down danger in New York. What if something had happened? If Olivia ever did get injured while out on the job...
"Hey, don't think like that," Olivia said, reading into the silence. "I'm fine. I promise. And – and if something did happen... I know you would be here. Look, it's bad luck to talk about it, but I put your name on the sheet with Elliot's. Of people to contact, you know? So someone would call you..."
Alex's eyes, which had started tearing up while she thought about something happening to Olivia, suddenly burned with dryness. She was shocked, touched, happy, and incredibly depressed all at once. Suddenly, she thought of Kathy Stabler, whom she had only met twice. She and Olivia weren't quite there yet, but Alex knew that she needed to get used to the idea of waking up every morning and getting through the day with the knowledge that, in the blink of an eye, her entire world could be taken away from her.
"Thank you," was all she could manage to say.
"No, turn to your other left!" Serena grumbled sarcastically at the television. "Honestly, I don't know what you see in NASCAR, Abbie," she said, offering the federal prosecutor the warm mug that she held in her hands before sitting down beside her.
Still gazing, transfixed, at her laptop, Abbie took a sip from the mug, eyebrows raising in surprise and delight. "Mmm, hot chocolate with marshmallows! Thanks, Serena. You're the best." Reluctantly setting down the mug and turning away from the screen of her laptop, she dropped a soft, lingering kiss on the blonde attorney's cheek.
Serena smiled softly, leaning over to look at what Abbie was working on. She expected it to be work, some kind of research or at least an e-mail inbox cleaning, but instead, she found herself staring at the web page for Texas A&M. "Abbie, what are you doing?"
Abbie grinned. "Watchin' NASCAR, drinking hot chocolate, reading the latest Aggie basketball scores, and sitting with my best girl. Why?"
"Basketball?" Serena looked confused. "I mean, NASCAR I knew about before, but why are you looking up basketball scores?"
"Because Football season's over!" Abbie announced mournfully, as though that was the most logical explanation in the world. "And because they're playing the Longhorns."
Serena immediately understood. "Ah, I see." Even though Abbie was mostly uninterested in basketball, her Aggie pride (and thus, her hatred of the Longhorns) would not let her rest without at least checking the scores. With a mischievous gleam in her eye, Serena let one hand slide up Abbie's denim-clad thigh, passing over the material with her thumb to stroke the skin beneath. "I don't suppose you could be distracted for a few minutes, hmm?"
Even though Serena's touch made her shiver, Abbie pretended to be unaffected by the breathy voice in her ear. She was slowly getting used to ignoring her body's urges, but the going was difficult. Most times, just seeing Serena was enough to send her head spinning and her heart pounding as she struggled not to tackle her to the floor and tear her clothes off in a fit of violent passion. Serena knew just how hard she was trying to be good, but she still delighted in pushing Abbie to the edge of her limits.
Abbie swallowed conspicuously as Serena began kneading her thigh just above the knee. "Um, maybe," she squeaked, her voice completely different from the low, husky southern drawl that all of her friends were used to. Trying to distract herself, she took another sip of her hot chocolate.
Her companion took the opportunity to rest her head on Abbie's shoulder, not really interested in the 'drama' playing out on the screen as a new NASCAR driver moved into first place. She had never seen the appeal of the sport, and suspected Abbie only watched it because she liked being an amusing stereotype – before shattering people's assumptions with her perverted lesbian ways.
Feeling the weight of Serena's head on her shoulder, Abbie almost dropped her cup. Hands shaking, she set it back down on the table so that she wouldn't spill. "Howdy there," she said, unable to resist leaning over and kissing Serena's fair hair. Serena responded by brushing a soft, wet kiss over Abbie's pulse-point, which was hammering double speed underneath her skin.
"This is nice," she purred, snuggling up against Abbie's side and tucking her knees up onto the couch. "We never got to do this before..."
"Do what before?"
"Aw, that ain't cuddling. This here is cuddling." Abbie wrapped both arms around Serena, not caring that the blonde's arm was cutting some of the blood circulation off from one hand. Holding the slender woman in her arms was more than worth the slight discomfort. Leaning back into a comfortable position, she tried to ignore the dramatic effect that holding Serena close had on her body.
"Do you know what I like even better than cuddling?" Serena asked, tilting her head up and gazing into soft brown eyes.
"What?" Abbie murmured.
"Kissing." Serena whispered the single word against the tall Texan's lips before bringing their mouths together in a soft peck. Abbie felt her face flush with heat. Serena's lips, Serena's taste, Serena's warmth, they were the most wonderful sensations in the entire world, and she would never be able to get enough. She just hoped that the ACLU lawyer would give her a chance to prove she was worthy of keeping her heart safe.
"Know what?" Abbie asked, nuzzling Serena's nose with her own.
"NASCAR's not that interesting anyway," she said, casually muting the volume with the remote and pulling Serena in for another, deeper kiss.
Olivia sighed, brushing her bangs off of her face as she went through the pile of letters that Casey had diligently collected for her, writing down pertinent information on her notepad before sealing them in bags and shipping them off to the lab for evaluation. Maybe they would get lucky and find some DNA samples, perhaps even a hit in the system. She took another sip of her coffee, blinking away the tired blurriness that threatened to creep in around the edges of her vision.
The detective still felt guilty for leaving Casey with Abbie the other afternoon, and so she had called their former ADA in the morning to check in. Casey claimed that she was doing fine, and assured her that Abbie had been a total gentlewoman. Olivia figured that being shot at had earned her a pass for the social faux pas she had committed. To make up for it, she was reviewing all of Casey's evidence, partially to alleviate her guilt and partially because Cragen had suspended her from Samantha and Gambel's case until she went to a psych evaluation. It was SOP after a shooting, but that didn't mean Olivia had to like it.
"Hey, what's all this?" Elliot Stabler put a comforting hand on her shoulder, peering down at the desk full of papers and packages. "This has nothing to do with finding Samantha's killer."
"God, don't remind me about that case, please," Olivia groaned. "I'm not supposed to be working on it anyway." She was still bothered by the memory of the woman found dead in the laundry cart. So far, Jason Gambel had left them with nothing to go on but a box of strange trophies from his alleged victims. “I'm doing something else to put off my psych eval. Then I'll probably help Fin and Munch go through Gambel's trophies and track down the other victims.”
"Hey, the meeting with Huang might not be so bad," Elliot said, ignoring his own reluctance to meet with the psychologist.
"Yeah right. Why don't you go see him, then?"
Elliot rolled his eyes. "Because I'm a stubborn jarhead, not an intelligent lady like yourself. We overbearing masculine types are supposed to hide our feelings at the expense of our emotional health while you actually deal with your problems and move on."
That made Olivia snort. "If you think I enjoy dealing with my problems, you obviously don't know me that well after ten years of partnership."
"I didn't say you enjoyed it," Elliot said, his expression sober. "I said you would deal with it. It's part of the job. But you never answered the question, what is all this stuff?"
"A pleasant distraction," Olivia told him, using a glove to move one of the letters into a visible position on her desk. "Don't touch without protection."
Elliot smirked at her and waggled his eyebrows. "That's what she said..."
"Shut up, dumbass. Just read it."
Dutifully, Elliot scanned the few lines of loopy cursive. It was very neat, and almost artistic, written in real ink. "Calligraphy?"
"Yeah, I know it looks pretty, but read what it says."
The detective frowned, leaning closer. " One day soon you will be mine? Olivia, who do these belong to?"
"Would you believe Casey Novak?"
Whatever Elliot had been expecting, hearing their former ADA's name clearly took him by surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah, really. She came by Alex's apartment the other day asking for my help. It seems like Casey's got a secret admirer and hoped I'd agree to look in to it."
Elliot frowned. "Why not call in the police?"
"I asked her the same question. She said we were the police, and she trusted us more than some hump at a desk that would take her statement and then do absolutely nothing about it. You know how these creeps work, El. The law can't do anything until they strike, and then it's usually too late."
Unfortunately, Elliot knew just how accurate Olivia's assessment was. "You're right. So, what have we got?"
Olivia's lips twitched up in a smile as Elliot – faithful, reliable Elliot – took a seat beside her, ready to help and back her play. He had always been there for her. "I miss Alex," she said in a burst of emotional vulnerability, hoping that the tough marine would be able to handle a little more sentimentality without getting uncomfortable.
Elliot gave her shoulder another squeeze. "Yeah, I know." He had noticed the empty, sad, lonely look in Olivia's brown eyes, and as much as he wanted to make it go away, he knew that he couldn't. The light would only return when Alex came back from her Safari adventure. "How is she?"
"Doing a lot of paperwork and collecting a lot of witness statements to make sure that a guy named Mani Japhet never sees sunlight again. He ordered guerilla troops to rape hundreds of women and enslave them in compounds... burned children alive, destroyed homes and local agriculture, butchered the men like animals." Olivia shuddered. "How can people do that to each other?"
"Hey, I dunno. I ask myself the same question every day. I guess people in New York aren't as different from people in third world countries as we'd like to believe."
Olivia took off her glove, snapping the stretchy plastic with a loud crack. "Yeah. One death is a tragedy, a million is just a statistic... I guess that kind of large-scale evil is too much for people to comprehend, so they don't sense the urgency to fix it."
"Well, for now, let's take a look at these letters and see if we can find any kind of identifying thread. We can't save the world, but maybe we can help Casey find out who is bothering her. Tell her to come in and see us, would you? I know Munch and Fin would love to see a pretty face in here again."
"Hardwicke's not pretty enough for you?"
"Eh. Not bad, but she's no Alex,” said Elliot, referring to their new ADA. So far, Olivia was handling her all right, but her relationship with Elliot was frosty at the best of times.
Olivia aimed a punch at Elliot's head. "Hey! That's my girl you're talking about."
"Y'know, Benson, I should be jealous. You seduced the hottest of our ADA's." Olivia did not bother to correct him and explain that Alex had practically been the one to seduce her.
"You should be grateful, Stabler. If you tried to seduce any of our ADA's, I'd tell Kathy, and then she'd chop off your balls and shove them down your throat. I wouldn't even be able to investigate without IAB breathing down my neck."
"So, Olivia, what's the occasion?" Casey plopped onto the couch next to Olivia, eyeing the detective with a mixture of concern and curiosity. She was half way through a bottle of expensive wine from Alex's liquor cabinet and looking very sorry for herself. Her journey from the front door of Alex's apartment to the couch had been slightly wobbly as well, and Casey almost offered a steadying hand for her elbow, choosing to let her be at the last minute. She knew better than most how stubborn Olivia Benson could be.
The detective sighed. "Anyone ever tell you you're nosey, Novak?" she mumbled, folding her arms irritably over her breasts and staring down at her lap.
The redheaded attorney sighed right back at her. "Yeah, a time or two, but I bet you've been called worse." She gave Olivia a tight smile. Perhaps calling on Olivia this late wasn't such a good idea, even if the detective had extended the invitation in the first place.
"What's the occasion of your visit?"
"You seriously don't remember asking me to come over when we talked on the phone this morning?"
"Alcohol," Olivia slurred, tipping the wine bottle in a waving salute. "It makes me forget things..." Except the things I really need to forget, her mind added bitterly. Like blonde hair and blue eyes... missing Alex...
"And you're drinking alcohol because...?"
Olivia's eyes narrowed and her tone immediately became defensive. "Because I had a really shitty day, all right?" Even though she rarely used alcohol to numb emotional distress, Alex's absence had left her unbalanced. "I sent off your boxes to the forensic analysts, so there's nothing I can do to help you until they get back to me, which makes me feel like a lousy friend... I'm no closer to figuring out who Gambel's trophies belong to, and I'm not even supposed to be working until Huang shrinks my head... I'm useless. And the love of my life is half a world away..."
Even though Casey didn't understand half of what Olivia was rambling about, she knew that she was intruding on an extremely private moment. The redhead quickly reevaluated her approach. Maybe friendly banter wasn't the best way to go. What Olivia needed was a sympathetic ear. "Hey," she said, putting a friendly hand on the brunette detective's shoulder and squeezing gently. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Wanna know the worst part?" Olivia said bleakly, blinking her dry eyes and setting the bottle of wine on Alex's coffee table. The television murmured from various expensive speakers around the living room, but neither of them was paying attention.
"What's the worst part?" Casey asked, not sure she wanted to know, but understanding that Olivia needed someone to talk to.
"This is the anniversary of her fake funeral... and..."
Casey let out a soft gasp. "And..."
"You know, when she was dying, when I felt her blood pouring out between my fingers – God, it covered the back of my hands, it was everywhere... my biggest regret was never telling her I loved her... I tried to tell her. She said once that she remembers my voice before it all fades out. She remembers me saying 'sweetie' and telling her to hang on..."
Completely surprised at Olivia's sudden, uncharacteristic verbosity and unsure how to react in this emotionally charged situation, Casey was nonetheless heartbroken. For the first time, she saw exactly how much Alex obviously meant to Olivia. Unlike the rest of the squad, she had not seen the two interact together except on one or two occasions. Then, they had been distant, formal, almost painfully so. Now, the feelings of love and loss were written clearly on Olivia's face.
At first, she had been planning to admonish Olivia for drinking. Usually, the older woman was very responsible with alcohol, particularly considering her painful family background. Now she understood. She'd let it slide tonight. Olivia so rarely indulged, and it sounded like she was having a really terrible day... week... month...
She decided that the best thing she could do was talk about Alex. "You know, she hated me when she came back. Accused me of trying to steal her detectives away from her. Little did she know that she is irreplaceable."
Olivia smiled faintly. "Yeah... she'd already stolen my heart. Major felony right there. Got her twenty five to life."
"Oh, so you're a clever drunk," Casey drawled, finishing off the wine that remained in Olivia's glass and leaving behind a lipstick print. She decided it didn't matter. Olivia had already had more than enough, and now she was here to limit her alcohol intake.
"Depends on what I'm drinking. I can be clever, moody, horny, or all three."
"Well, let's hope you're not the last one," Casey said quickly, not as accustomed to the sexual banter that Olivia, Alex, and Serena had inherited from Abbie Carmichael like some kind of contagious disease.
"No," Olivia sighed, reclaiming the bottle of wine and wagging it at Casey, whose face was just a little blurry around the edges. "Now I'm mostly just moody..." Of course, the horniness was also a problem, but she was not drunk enough to let that information slip. Although it was not affecting her at the moment, the past few weeks had been difficult. Being apart from Alex was torturous, and watching Abbie and Serena dance around each other did not help. "I'm glad you stopped by," she admitted softly. "Abbie and Serena are out on another date. Abbie keeps taking her out because if they stay here they'll start going at it, and she's got chivalrous notions of wanting to wait."
"Do you always talk about your friends that way?"
Olivia shrugged. "It's the truth."
Casey noticed Olivia's eyelids drooping and decided to be responsible. "Hey, we can talk about my case some other night, okay? Why don't you get some sleep. Do you mind if I take the couch and stay over? I really, really don't want to go back to my place this late..." She left the rest of the sentence unspoken, not wanting to acknowledge the uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situation that she found herself living with. "I'd feel safer here with a badge and a gun a couple of rooms away, even if the officer in question is – slightly incapacitated."
"Big words," Olivia hummed contentedly. "Sounds like Alex..." Perhaps if she was feeling a little more chivalrous, she would have offered Casey use of the bed, or even suggested sharing, but it didn't feel like her bed to give up... not without Alex. All she wanted to do was curl up in that physical reminder of their relationship, the place where they had made love so many times, where they had held each other and whispered promises and adorations.
So she didn't, and Casey understood. "You're more than welcome to stay the night. Sorry I'm a terrible host."
The attorney smiled. "It's okay. Maybe I'll make you some eggs and toast in the morning."
That reminded Olivia of the first time she had stayed over at Alex's place, filling her with more bittersweet longing. "Thanks, Case," she said, her throat tight with tears, "that'd be... nice."
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"And back to the busy workday," Olivia said, squinting at her laptop screen. She had awoken an hour earlier, and after a brief but refreshing shower, the effects of the alcohol and her sob session on Casey Novak's shoulder had been temporarily scrubbed away. Still, her longing for Alex remained. The redhead had been a godsend, making her breakfast and then slipping away after assuring Olivia that she would keep in touch. Abbie and Serena were still out doing God knew what, and she had the apartment to herself for a little while. Not wanting to brood and definitely not wanting to stop in at the precinct with the threat of George Huang hanging over her head, she decided to get some work done at home for the first half of the day.
Blinking to clear her head, she focused on the unread e-mails in her inbox, debating whether to get up and make a fresh pot of coffee. That just reminded her that she would only need to brew enough for one, which made the loneliness creeping in around the edges of her heart burn even more fiercely.
That is, until she saw the sender of the third e-mail on the list. Alex. So far, they had been pretty good at sending e-mails and texts back and forth. Alex's reception and schedule was occasionally unreliable, as was Olivia's, and so actual face-time over the computer or in-person phone conversations were rarer than she would like. When they could not reach each other, they settled for leaving short, sweet messages of affection that remained in both of their thoughts for the rest of the day and bolstered their courage. And balancing a long-distance relationship, even a temporary one, did take a lot of courage.
This particular e-mail came with a video attachment. Curious, Olivia clicked on the 'Download' button. Groaning when the estimated time next to the download link read 5 minutes, she went back to checking the rest of her e-mail, deleting two offers for discounts on male enhancement pills, three claims to lower her auto-insurance premiums, and an e-mail stating that she had won the Australian lottery. Although her work e-mail was usually secure, a few spam messages still slipped through.
She skimmed a few more work-related messages before checking on the downloading file from Alex. To her surprise, it was already done. And just in time, she thought, clicking eagerly on the link, excited at the prospect of seeing her lover's face.
To her surprise, she saw the back of Alex's head instead, her hair pulled back in a loose bun. Obviously just having started the recording process, her blonde lover was walking away from the camera and over to her iPod station. Although Alex's torso was blocking the view, Olivia guessed from the movement of her right arm that she was scrolling through the list of songs. Finally, she turned around and Olivia gasped.
Alex was wearing a white tank top, nipples clearly visible through the flimsy fabric, and a pair of soft looking, dark red panties that revealed her gorgeous legs. Olivia was so entranced that she did not even notice that the camera's setup gave her a full view of Alex's bed. Looking a little shy, Alex stopped and waved at the camera. "Hi, baby. I heard through the grape vine that you've been feeling kind of lonely lately, so I wanted to send you something special. I love you, and I wish you were here... I really, really wish you were here..." Reaching over to her iPod, she pressed the play button.
As the silver strains of a solo flute curled from the speakers like smoke, Alex walked over to the side of the bed, putting a deliberate sway in her hips and giving the camera – and Olivia – a very nice view. She reached for something on the nightstand, and Olivia's throat went dry as she watched Alex slide her familiar but oh-so-incredibly sexy glasses onto her nose.
"Oh God," Olivia mumbled, still staring at the screen, "she is not. She is not. "
But apparently she was.
Continued in Part Three
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